Monday, March 27, 2017

Farmer Peter

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Hi, I’m Peter.  I just turned 6.  This is my dog Mochi.  I am by a stream in the pasture.  Mochi looks really excited.  This is when I first learned how to be friends with Mochi.  At first she kind of jumped on me and then she kind of tried to bite me. I wanted to just stay inside all the time.  Because I was scared she would bite me.  But I just kept on going outside more and more.  I learned that she wasn’t biting at all and she liked me.  If I had a friend who came to the farm I would tell them that Mochi is not biting and she won’t jump on you as long as you get to know her more.  She is just a puppy even though she looks like a dog. 

I like the baby goats and I also like the chickens.  We have 32 to chickens.  And two that are laying blue eggs.  I have tasted a little bit of one of the eggs.  It tastes just like a normal egg.  We are saving all the eggs for Easter.  I try to catch the chickens every time I go into the barn.  And I have my own Chicken named Juke.  She is a black chicken and she is really fast and she always, when I’m trying to catch her, finds a shortcut. 

My favorite thing about being on the farm is feeding the goats.  I like when they come up to you and they start drinking really fast.  They always wiggle their tails really fast. IMG_6818

My job on the farm is all the water.  That means I’m in charge of making sure we have enough water from our pump and I water all the plants in the greenhouse and in the orchard.  When we are out of water I just go down to the pump by the river and we turn it on.  You have to make sure that the red thing in it is spinning so that it can pump water up to the giant tank on the hill.  We have to filter our water because it comes from a very dirty river.  I like my job because I like to drink water a lot, so every day I go and do the pump with my cousins who are here. 

I am glad I am living on a farm because it is fun to work.  Sometimes I would like to play, but sometimes when I get working I like it. 

It’s also really pretty here.  Every morning there’s a little frost on the grass and it looks really pretty.  And right now it is winter and we’ve been to the beach in winter. That’s pretty cool because it’s pretty cold in Boston. I like being farmer Peter.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Baby GOATS!! Maaaa.

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Hello, this is Emmeline.  I would like to tell you about my baby goats.  My landlord just came home with two baby goats one day.  They were only 4 days old.  And then a few days later we went to the goat farm, Harley Farms, and picked out June.  The other two we named May and April.  April has a black line down her back and brown around the back of her back.  May is just like that, but in place of the brown there is black.  So she is just black and white.  And June is just like April, just has a white stripe across her back.  IMG_6123

We have to bottle feed them every day.  Three times a day.  They suck really hard on the bottle.  You need a nipple to feed them.  Our nipples broke because our dog chewed them up and then we got new ones that were meant for baby sheep.  We use Corona bottles to feed them.  Don’t worry everyone, we got the bottles from the goat farm.  The goat farm uses Corona bottles too.

The goats hop sideways when you run and they go after you hopping.  Most of the time they stay in the barn with the doors shut with the chickens and pigs and everybody is all around the barn.  But sometimes we let them out to play on the grass.  They follow us like three little pogo sticks. 

Mochi is supposed to be their protector, but Mochi is too little and we’re trying to train her to not chase the goats.  It scares me when she chases them.

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Here is Peter with April.  April used to have a floppy ear because she was too curled up in her mommy’s tummy.  But then it got better.  April, I think, is the oldest.  Actually May.  IMG_6060

Here is Hazel holding May.  Hazel had the idea of naming them months.  I like the name June the best.  We play a game with them where we run to one side of the barn and they follow us and it gives them their exercise.  IMG_6133

Here is a picture of getting June.  Hazel had to hold her, but I wanted to.  Can you believe we took her in our car?  We got her on Sunday, that’s why everyone is wearing Sunday clothes.  Hazel had napkins on her lap so that June wouldn’t pee on her dress.  IMG_6118

This is Charlie holding May.  He is not holding her right.  You are meant to give their legs a hug when you want to pick them up.  They are so soft, but adult goats, their fur is kind of rough.  I want our goats hair to stay fluffy. 

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This is when we first got surprised with April and May.  I am holding May, the wrong way, and Hazel is holding April, the wrong way. 

I love these goats, these are the best pets in the world, but you have to get baby ones to have the best pets in the world.  The big ones are horrible.  As soon as these ones get bigger we’re going to have someone lend us our billy goat so that these ones can have babies.  Then we’ll always have little cute baby goats. 

And hopefully soon we are going to get a pregnant goat, so we can milk a goat and see a goat have babies.

So those are MAAAAAAAA goats!

Friday, March 03, 2017

February Farm: visitors and rain and rain and more rain

IMG_5926February was one of the wettest months in the past decade of California.  People here had been praying for rain after so many years of drought and the rain came.  Right when we did.  It was a lot of rain.  But warm (to us) and green and luscious and I enjoyed (almost) every drop of it.  All that green does good things for the soul.  It made it a little hard to jump into some of the farming projects that we’ve been eager to start, but it certainly felt like and adventure.  There were a few days when the rain was so hard we either had to drive over a river to get away, or stay at home.  We chose to stay at home a lot, to sew and cook and set up house.  And read.  Lots of time to read here.

And the rain brought all that green, and blossoms.  Blossoms in February feels dreamy to me since I’m typically holding onto sanity by my fingernails when they finally pop in April in Boston.  IMG_5697 

I love the combo of the Spanish moss and the plum blossoms.  I am blown away by the beauty of this place. IMG_5809 IMG_5612As soon as the weather forecast showed some sunshine my parents booked a trip to see our new life. It was so fun to see this experience through their eyes and share it with them.  We walked all over the ranch together, finding new places.  We drove up and down highway one and ate lots of good food.  They took over a few of the homeschool morning meetings and taught my kids about art and poetry.  It felt pretty good to get some reinforcements in here since Jeff was traveling for work for a lot of the month.    IMG_5619They also helped us to plant some of the 50 trees we had shipped to us.  IMG_5629IMG_5632IMG_5641-1IMG_5650-1IMG_5678

It was sad to see them go, but thankfully we have family nearby now!  We’ve never lived close to family in our married life, and it’s so great to have Jeff’s parents just a short (long with traffic sometimes) drive away.  They have been to the farm quite a few times to help us with projects and celebrate birthdays.  And we’ve been up to their place to escape a few times, get away from rain and having to build fires and be dirty.  I feel like this is how life with kids is meant to be lived.  It’s so great to see these grandparent/child relationships grow deep roots and to have more adults helping to guide and love my children.  19668030-30DF-4A43-8695-9B434DD81825

Ron comes and tinkers in our barn and fixes things and helps get big machines running and takes his afternoon nap.  Nedra comes and helps me cook and teaches the kids to sew and practices with Peter.  She and Emmeline made these curtains to spruce up Emmeline’s room a bit.  I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on this all these years. IMG_5919Saren and her three youngest also came to visit.  They didn’t get quite so lucky with weather.  But we didn’t let the rain stop us.  We are waterproof, we can handle it.  It was awesome to share all this beauty with a sister-friend.   It’s nice to be with someone who feels things in the same places that you do.  We loved soul searching together while these kids had the time of their lives exploring and feeling alive.  Most of the photos we took were from our little excursions to the coast, but we spent most of our time at the farm, kids exploring, me and saren walking and cooking and digesting this life of mine together.  IMG_5827IMG_5775Always lammy. IMG_5782IMG_5805IMG_5809I love the rain.  All that it brings with it.  Everything seems more vibrant with grey skies.  Rain sort of fits with my theme of the whole glistening.  A bright sunny day has it’s own glory, but the sun washes out a lot of the brilliance that a rainy day soaks into the world. IMG_5822IMG_5839IMG_6005Em and Peter and I spent a lot of time up in the greenhouse.  Planting seeds and then, after tucking them into their soil, singing to them to help them grow.  Peter got the idea from Frog and Toad and it seems to be working.  Things are really starting to grow in there.  I love having a little greenhouse. IMG_6055

Some friends of the owners of the ranch came to staying the guest house for a few days.  It was so great meeting them. In fact, one of the things I love about this life is how many cool and interesting people we are meeting.  You stop to talk to anyone you see around here because there just aren’t too many people!  This couple came over one day for our morning meeting to teach the kids physics and robot engineering.  The kids were in heaven, learning from someone besides me and mother nature.  We’ve decided that we’re putting all visitors to work.  Either with a shovel or with a white board.IMG_5432  Once the rain ended we were able to get out to explore a bit, all that the rain left behind.  Check out this mudslide up close.  Mother nature is powerful. IMG_5410Kids are finally getting used to little Mochi (growing up, but still just a 5 month old pup!)IMG_5482

There’s more, but it’s late, so we’ll leave it at that.  Life is good here.  Lots of work, the most exhausting of which is getting the kids to work! But lots of life and beauty and green. We feel alive.

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Still here, farming.

IMG_6112We’re still alive over here.  Haven’t gotten eaten yet by a mountain lion, or swept away by a mud slide.  We’re just here.  Homeschooling, homesteading, learning, sometimes thriving sometimes just surviving.

Life is packed here, but in such a different way than our old life.  I’m having a hard time finding time to blog, funny, cause I thought I’d have a ton of time here, having cut out so many parts of life.  But I’ve found, over and over again, that life just keeps spilling into all the places we try to carve out.  And I guess that’s ok.  It means life is full, abundant. 

I’ve spent the past 30 min trying to figure out how (with our slow internet) to get my photos from my phone to my computer to my blog, and have pretty much failed.  But, instead of giving into my sluggish brain and worn out body and heading to bed I’m going to jot down a bit here.  Without all the photos to tell the story (hopefully I’ll figure that out soon!).  If you want to see more glimpses of this beautiful place on earth, head on over to my instagram account: @saydria .  I have been posting a bunch there, and my account isn’t private, which means you can pop in and out to see what we’re up to. 

We’re settling into this life.  I wouldn’t say it’s been a smooth settling, instead this life has kind of scarfed us down, swallowed us up whole.  We are digging in deep and dirty.  Every once in a while I feel a tiny pull to look back in nostalgia to our life before, or look forward, searching for light in the unknown future, but most of the time I’m so deep into the present that I can’t see anything else.  This feels good.  This is what I’ve been craving. 

This life is all or nothing.  It requires full engagement.  It’s exhausting, and I’m not sure if it’s sustainable at this rate.  But it feels like a good reset.  All of us together, all the time.  Working, learning, playing, exploring.  It has eased my fears of not being able to drink in my children’s childhood.  I’m drowning in it! 

I’ve got a few more posts in the works, on what our days look like, what adventures February brought and how settling into homeschooling.  But for now, if you want a lot more info on what’s happening around here and how we got here, check out the podcast I recorded with my sister for Power of Moms.  It was late when we sat down to record it, so I may have shared too much, but it will give you a better sense for why we’re here and what we’re doing.

Click here to listen.  Not sure I would have entitled it: Making beautiful dreams come true, because dreams feel so messy when you’re in the middle of them.  I have to constantly remind myself that this is a pretty beautiful (albeit dirty) dream come true.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Shumway Family Farm Adventure 2017

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Hi from the farm.  It’s been a while since I wrote and our family has undergone a tremendous change. I’ve been trying to carve out some time to document what is happening, but life has been all consuming.  Finally I have a few minutes and I’m determined to start documenting this chapter of our lives.

“What have we done?  What are we doing?” I’ve been asking myself these question ever since this crazy plan started to unfold.  There have been days when the question only pops up once, and other days when it comes ever few seconds.  It’s so stretching to make a big change like this, to leave behind so many good and beautiful things (that look better than ever when you’re leaving) and to step into the unknown.  But we’re doing it, and it feels hard, and right.  We all feel alive.

For almost two years there has been an opportunity for Jeff to open a Social Finance office in the bay area.  We’ve spent countless hours watching the housing market and trying on all kinds of options to get our finances to work within the insane costs of bay area housing.  This summer after a visit to California and driving through dozens of neighborhoods scanning for a place that would work we had pretty much decided that staying in Boston was the best option for us.  Until, out of the blue, this totally other option opened up to us.

Before I go on, you have to know that Jeff and I are both mid-life.  If you’ve been through a mid-life transition (I like that word better than crisis) then our age might help this story make (a little) more sense.

Jeff’s crisis/transition has manifested itself by an intense desire to farm. He started growing a beard and wearing flannel and watching YouTube videos on composting and no-till farming.  He felt this pull to work the land like those who went before him, to do physical labor and toughen up our kids.

Mine has been about the kids growing up too quickly and my day to day role as a mother shifting with a end in sight.  The day they will start going away to begin their own independent lives seems suddenly closer and more real now that I don’t have any babies. I’m seeing more clearly the fact that’s always been there:  childhood is a one shot deal, before I know it their childhood, this thing I want to craft for them so carefully, will be written. While I love the path we’ve been on and the childhood that God has laid before my children thus far, I’ve had this craving to slow down time, to shed things and simplify our obligations so that I can be more present. We’ve hit a little golden sliver of time where all our kids are old enough and eager for adventure and none are too traumatized by the idea of change. 

Throughout my life I’ve thrown little wishes out into the universe.  A little seed of spiritual creation, sometimes blown into nothing by the wind, sometimes blessed to take root and materialize into a path that has the form of the initial wish.  I’ve thrown out wishes to travel with my children, wishes to give them broad experience, wishes to slow down, wishes for adventure.   I remember voicing a few times how cool it would be to live on a farm.  Not forever, but for long enough to connect with our farming roots, to work hard, to do tough things and to connect with the natural, wild world. When we stopped this summer at the Laura Ingalls Homestead in South Dakota that wish grew a little bigger, and without really even realizing it I threw it out there to the stars on that wild prairie.  It seemed to take hold on me, to grow roots as I watched my kids run free through the fields and play with those animals, all four of them beaming with life.  I starting thinking that now is really the moment for a family adventure.  In a few years Hazel and Charlie will be deep into her own teenage adventures.

So, late this summer, when we discovered that some friends of ours had an unoccupied farm just south of San Francisco the stars were seeming to align and we jumped at the chance to be their temporary caretakers while Jeff opens the west coast office. There are a lot more inner details about how scary it was to make this leap, how heart wrenching and nostalgic it was to close up the Boston chapter of our lives, how much work it was to pack up our house and get it ready for renters, and how miraculous it was that everything lined up, but this post is getting too long, so I’ll have to save those details for another time or another place.  

Basically, we packed up our life in Boston and have committed to living here in California for 6 months.  

And now, here we are, close to the ocean, on a ranch/farm (the kids like to say a franch), homeschooling, homesteading.  We’re living in an old farm house (heated only by a wood burning stove), caring for 30 chicks, two pigs, two barn cats, one Great Pyrenees pup and 147 acres of rolling beauty.   We had two sheep, but as of two days ago they were killed by mountain lions.  This is certainly an adventure. IMG_4441IMG_4443

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I knew when we jumped into this that it would be a challenge, that there would be a lot of surprises.  That our beautiful vison of all of us working together, reading together, learning together, exploring together would be peppered with lots of unexpected hard stuff.  But I’ve learned time and time again that the unexpected, the hard, the dark and the challenge are what make the whole glisten, that there is beauty in ashes. That without contrast life is flat and memories are one dimensional.  I’m ready for the hard.  I’m full of hope that we’re going to be glad we took this leap no matter what comes our way. I believe that if I can live in anticipation of the memory, the present will be easier to swallow and the memory of this adventure will be deeper and brighter and more defining. IMG_4446

We’ve been here two weeks and already have had our share of the unexpected.  Our dog bites and Em and Peter are pretty terrified to go outside without clinging to me.  She’s just a pup and I’m sure she’ll learn, but my vision of them running wild for most of the day, drinking in the fresh air is a little laughable. Instead they’re behind locked doors, or clinging to me, or tucked safe in their kid car that Santa brought them for Christmas.  The big kids and I have all been trying to train the pup and the kids to all get along, but it’s hard work.  Slowly Em is getting to a place where she’s not shaking in her boots, but poor Peter still finds the need to be up high on fences when he’s not in the house or in his car.  We’ll get there.  IMG_4605

IMG_4630Then there’s the reality of living in an old run down farm house.  We only brought what we could fit in our two cars so we’re going pretty minimalist.  We’ve spent a lot of our time accumulating things that we need (thank heavens for my in-laws who live an hour away and have called in all their favors from friends and neighbors to help us get some necessities).  Our house is COLD (we came at the coldest time of year) and we’ve spent a lot of time shivering and splitting wood and building fires.  While my pyro child Charlie has promised to keep me warm, it’s a lot more work than we anticipated.  We’re trying to tell ourselves that it’s work that will warm us twice.  We finally have two toilets! But they wobble when you sit and frequently clog. IMG_4548

Homeschool is WAAAY harder than I thought it might be.  It’s evolving and getting a little better each day, but we’ve had some major fails and lots of emotions. Since it’s only 6 months and since we believe that the kids are going to learn so much from just living in this alternative way, we’re trying not to make it look too much like traditional school, but still, finding the right structure has been rocky (to put it lightly).  More on this later when we’ve figured more out.

And then there is the wild world that we’re confronting.  We’ve had record breaking rain and that has created a river over what is supposed to be the bridge leading up to our house, I’ve white knuckled it over that roaring river a few times, thinking heavy thoughts and hoping each time that our car wouldn’t get swept downstream.  Then, about a week after we arrived we woke to find that our sheep had been killed by a mountain lion.  We tried to herd the other sheep into the barn, but she was terrified out of her mind and wouldn’t be corralled no matter how hard we tried.  So she got taken the next night.  And on the third night after some torrential rain and hail we woke up to find a huge mudslide that had ripped through the sheep pasture.  They were doomed to death it seems.  So, we’re learning the harsh and wild realities of the world and that’s putting us a little on edge. IMG_4662

IMG_4676And, of course, all the dirt and mud and mice and ants and spiders.  Our water comes right from the creek below the house, so it’s yellow and silty, so we’re never really very clean.  We’re just trying to embrace that this is a dirty life, and once we’ve accepted that it seems the grossness of it all isn’t too bothersome.  The mice aren’t getting into our food (though we see them and hear them all the time) and Peter is capturing and befriending all the ants he can find. 

Aside from feeding the animals and trying to keep them alive (sorry sheep) we are hoping to start a kitchen garden and plant fruit trees in the old orchard.  This was one of the things I was most excited about.  Room to grow things and a long growing season.  But, there are deer and gophers EVERYWHERE so lots of our ideas and plans are going to be much trickier to pull off.  It’s hard to even know where to start with these kinds of new obstacles in the way.  Especially since we’re such rookies at everything we’re doing.  YouTube can only go so far. IMG_4399

I’m trying to blur the reality of all those unexpected challenges and bring into focus all the incredible things about this new life of ours.  First, it is absolutely the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived.  I do wake up to a freezing nose and a frigid room, but I can see the pink and orange sunrise, burning off the fog that settles in at night.  There are deer out on our pasture every morning and we can watch them bound into the green expanse.  We have big rolling hills, green as Ireland right now from all the rain.  And the pastures are bordered by redwood forests and a rushing river.  IMG_4780IMG_4556At night the stars are bright and the heavens are full.  We live just a few minutes from the coast and nearly everywhere we go we get to look at the wild ocean.  The beach closest to us is full of drift wood and caves and cliffs.  Hazel and I let out a little shrill of delight every time we turn onto Rt. One.  We pinch ourselves in disbelief that we get to live in such a beautiful spot.